2017 Projects

Benbow Dam Removal

 

Project Final Report

 

Project Lead: California State Parks

 

Location of Project: 40.06566100, -123.80127200

 

Description of Project: This project will remove Benbow Dam to facilitate fish passage and habitat improvement for Coho, Chinook, Steelhead and most other aquatic species (c.f. lamprey eel) in the South Fork of the Eel (SFE) River in southern Humboldt County, Northwestern California. The project area is located in the Benbow Lake State Recreation Area, about 70 road miles south from Eureka, California and about 2 miles south from Garberville, California. Removal of the dam was an explicitly specified activity identified in National Marine Fisheries Service, 2012 draft Recovery Plan for the Evolutionarily Significant Southern Unit of the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Coho Salmon, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – National Marine Fisheries Service, Arcata, California. The project is also consistent with the 2004 Recovery Strategy for California Coho Salmon, California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, CA. This project completely removes the dam so that there is no obstruction to flow, sediment, wood, or fish migration. The long-term goals to be achieved through removal of the dam are to; permit increased and easier fish passage, eliminate wave driven bank erosion from the dam’s resulting lake, enable normal passage of wood and sediment and the development of riparian vegetation, restore natural flows and to eliminate heating/evaporation of lake waters, eliminate the dam’s seasonal installation disturbances and costs of about $30,000 per year,  remove  a potential safety and navigation hazard, and enable future planning for riverine recreational opportunities.

 

Description of why this barrier is a high priority project: Fish counts at the Benbow dam between 1938 and 1973 reveal a declining trend for all salmonids. Although this trend is not unique to Benbow dam, the site has been a long-term monitoring point to help assess recovery in the SFE. In the 1930’s salmonid populations passing the dam were estimated at about 20,000 Chinook and 15-17,000 Coho. The Eel River Coho adult population is currently thought to number about 500, Chinook about 1000, and Steelhead about 2,000 (Yoshiyama and Moyle, 2010). A recent dive study in the lower Eel indicated that Chinook in the fall of 2012 could number about 10,000 (Higgins, 2013). Examining current trends, only winter run Steelhead are currently projected to survive extinction over the next 50 years. Removing the dam is a keystone activity in helping to increase access for salmonids to and from the upper basin and to improving flow, temperature and sediment conditions in the immediate reach as well as farther downstream.

 

The name(s) of the recovery plans and the specific task that name this barrier as a high priority: 

  • National Marine Fisheries Service. 2014. Final Recovery Plan for Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Evolutionarily Significant Unit of Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch).

  • National Marine Fisheries Service. Arcata, CA  - Task SONCC-SFER. 5.1.25.2 remove barriers based on evaluation - Removal of Benbow dam was explicitly called out in the 2012 draft plan but was funded by the time the final draft was completed. 

 

The California Fish Passage Forum has nine overall objectives. This project will help to address:

  1. Remediate barriers to effective fish migration.

  2. Implement education and outreach activities, targeting both the general public and fish passage practitioners.

 

Anadromous fish species that benefit from this project: Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, Steelhead/rainbow trout, and Pacific lamprey.

 

Miles of stream opened as a result of project implementation: 100 miles.

 

Location and distance in stream miles to downstream river structures, and whether each structure represents an insignificant, partial, or total barrier to fish passage: There are no known downstream barriers.

 

Location and distance in stream miles to upstream river structures, and whether each structure represents an insignificant, partial or total barrier to fish passage: No structures downstream present a barrier to fish, and no structures upstream present a barrier to fish to the headwaters of the basin.

 

How will the project be evaluated and measured for success: This project has a monitoring plan to assess success in achieving deliverables.

Pennington Creek Steelhead Barrier Removal Project

 

Project Update: March 2018

Project Lead: Trout Unlimited

 

Location of Project: Latitude: 35.34360000, Longitude: -120.73280000

 

Description of Project: The Pennington Creek Steelhead Barrier Removal Project eliminates a barrier to migration and restores access to critical spawning and rearing habitat in the Chorro Creek watershed in San Luis Obispo County, CA. This project will benefit salmonids listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, specifically threatened steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss, South-Central California Coast Distinct Population Segment).  The Chorro watershed is identified as a Core 2 watershed in NMFS’ South-Central California Steelhead Recovery Plan and this project implements Task CC-SCCS-4.3.  

 

Description of why this barrier is a high priority project: The Recovery Plan identifies migration barriers at water diversions as a critical limiting factor to steelhead recovery in the Chorro Creek watershed.  This project will remove a high-priority barrier on Pennington Creek at the diversion structure operated by the Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School, and replace it with a new diversion and reconstructed stream channel designed according to the CDFW California Salmonid Stream Habitat Restoration Manual and meeting all NMFS and CDFW requirements.  Once completed, the Project will allow all life stages of steelhead to reach the high-quality perennial habitat refugia in the upper reaches of Pennington Creek.   
 
The project will restore full access to 2.3 river miles of high quality habitat with persistent year-round flow in the Pennington Creek watershed.  In addition, the project will reduce the risk of juvenile steelhead becoming stranded downstream of the barrier during the annual dryback of the stream during the summer dry season. Finally, the project will create a learning site that will be incorporated into the ecological curriculum of the Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School, and used to educate approximately 6,000 kindergarten through 7th grade students per year. 

 

The name(s) of the recovery plans and the specific task that name this barrier as a high priority: South-Central California Steelhead Recovery Plan (NMFS 2013).  This project implements Task CC-SCCS-4.3 .   
 
This project is further consistent with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Steelhead Restoration Management Plan for California, which identifies barriers that prevent steelhead from reaching upstream perennial habitat as a limiting factor. 
 
The project has been identified as a high priority in conversations with regional DFW staffers including Margaret Paul and Matthew Michie. 
 
DFW's FRGP funded project design, and NOAA has funded the majority of project implementation. Both agencies have deemed the project to be a high priority for remediation (Margaret Paul, DFW, pers. comm. 2015, Stacie Smith, NOAA, pers. comm. 2016). 

 

The California Fish Passage Forum has nine overall objectives. This project will help to address:

  • 1. Remediate barriers to effective fish migration.

  • 5. Coordinate funding mechanisms to remove fish passage barriers.

  • 6. Promote state and federal permit coordination and streamlining.

  • 7. Facilitate plans to monitor and evaluate fish passage restoration effectiveness to ensure accountability.

  • 8. Promote state and national policy and actions that support fish passage improvement in California.

  • 9. Implement education and outreach activities, targeting both the general public and fish passage practitioners.

 

Anadromous fish species that benefit from this project: Steelhead/rainbow trout

 

Miles of stream opened as a result of project implementation: 2.3 miles.

 

Location and distance in stream miles to downstream river structures, and whether each structure represents an insignificant, partial, or total barrier to fish passage: There are no known downstream barriers.

 

Location and distance in stream miles to upstream river structures, and whether each structure represents an insignificant, partial or total barrier to fish passage: The only potentially significant downstream barrier is Approximately 1.5 mile downstream at PAD 700040 at the Highway 1 crossing, which has been treated by installing baffles but is believed to be a partial barrier to upstream migration at some flows.  Snorkel surveys by CCC have found adults upstream of the crossing.  DFW addressed this barrier in review of the FRGP design grant and determined it did not detract from the benefits of the instant project.  NOAA reached the same conclusion in funding this project. A 2003 survey by Taylor & Associates did not find any other significant barriers on Pennington Creek. The project will restore 2.3 river miles of high quality habitat with persistent year-round flow in the Pennington Creek watershed.  The next upstream barrier, which lies 2.3 miles above the Project, is the 200' long boulder cascade (PAD ID: 705752) which represents the upstream limit of anadromy.

 

How will the project be evaluated and measured for success: This project has a monitoring plan to assess success in achieving deliverables.

Upper Green Valley Creek Fish Passage Project

 

Project Update: July 2018

Project Lead: Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

 

Location of Project: 38.45150, -122.92725

 

Description of Project: The goal of the project is to restore fish passage and stabilize the grade through a 600-ft stream reach of upper Green Valley Creek (a tributary to the Russian River), thereby ensuring passage for juvenile and adult coho to an additional 4,810 ft of rearing and spawning habitat.   
 
Green Valley Creek, a major tributary to the lower Russian River, provides critical habitat for remnant native populations of coho salmon and steelhead trout, particularly in its upper portions. The Recovery Strategy for California Coho Salmon (CDFG, 2004) identified the Guerneville HSA as having the highest ranking (level 5) for restoration and management potential in the CCC Coho ESU, while NMFS’ CCC Coho Salmon Recovery Plan identified Green Valley Creek as a Phase I Priority area, with a goal for near-term population recovery.  Green Valley Creek was one of only three Russian River tributaries in which coho salmon were recorded in the early 2000s.  Thus, it has been a focus watershed for DFW’s coho recovery program, for the Russian River Coho Water Resources Partnership, and for the Russian River Coho Salmon Captive Broodstock Program.  The Broodstock Program has been stocking juvenile coho into Green Valley Creek (including the reach that contains the project site) since 2006. 
 
While holding high potential for salmonid recovery, the Green Valley Creek Watershed continues to face a number of potential limiting factors to fisheries success, including sedimentation, channel incision, and fish passage barriers.  CDFW has documented a decline in salmonid habitat conditions in the Upper Green Valley system, and this decline has been accompanied by a collapse in both coho and steelhead populations. Previous studies, culminating in the Green Valley Creek Watershed Management Plan Phase II Draft (GRRCD, 2013) have evaluated habitat impairments and potential limiting factors to fisheries success and have pointed to the impact of instream fish passage barriers (GRRCD, 2013; CDFG 1995, 2006; Laurel Marcus and Associates 2002; Merritt Smith 2003).   

 

Description of why this barrier is a high priority project: The barrier consists of an undersized, failing private road culvert, whose inlet invert sits 11.5 ft above the outlet pool depth.  The culvert is serving as tenuous grade control  for deep and rapid channel incision, and its imminent failure threatens to unzip the valley above, disconnecting its floodplains and exacerbating fine sediment loads plaguing spawning gravels downstream. The reach upstream of the project area, which is currently inaccessible to coho under all flow conditions, is low gradient and unincised, and has many attributes of high-quality coho rearing habitat, including year-round flow, with intermediate spawning habitat. The project would also ensure grade stabilization through this valuable reach, preserving floodplain connectivity and arresting downcutting.  To both restore fish passage at all flow conditions for all life stages, the project will replace the rusted undersized culvert with a bottomless arch culvert, create a 157-ft long step-pool roughened channel through the crossing, and construct two series of boulder weirs on either end.  Finally, the riparian corridor throughout the 600-ft reach, an area comprising over 1.1 acres, will be revegetated with over 650 native plants, maintained for 3 years to 80% survival rates.

 

The name(s) of the recovery plans and the specific task that name this barrier as a high priority: This project has been identified as a fish passage barrier in the Green Valley Creek Stream Inventory Report (DFG, revised 2006), the Green Valley Creek Watershed Assessment and Erosion Prevention Planning Project (PWA, 2008), Green Valley Creek Watershed Management Plan Phase II Draft (GRRCD, 2013), the Passage Assessment Database (#716534), and by DFW fisheries biologists (Berryman and Acomb, Green Valley Creek Culvert Analysis, 2015).   

 

The California Fish Passage Forum has nine overall objectives. This project will help to address:

  • 1. Remediate barriers to effective fish migration.

  • 8. Promote state and national policy and actions that support fish passage improvement in California.

  • 9. Implement education and outreach activities, targeting both the general public and fish passage practitioners.

 

Anadromous fish species that benefit from this project: Coho salmon, Steelhead/rainbow trout

 

Miles of stream opened as a result of project implementation: 0.9 miles.

 

Location and distance in stream miles to downstream river structures, and whether each structure represents an insignificant, partial, or total barrier to fish passage: Instream dams 0.3 and 0.7 miles below the project site (PAD #716533 and #716532) are currently being addressed by the Russian River Coho Water Resources Partnership.  The Green Valley Road county culvert 0.75 miles downstream of the project site, prioritized in Ross Taylor’s 2003 inventory of county road crossings, was recently modified for fish passage.  Designs have been completed for two partial barriers over 4 miles downstream (#712804 and #735259), with implementation funding pending from FRGP. Additional barriers identified in the PAD as "unknown passage status" have not been prioritized by subsequent barrier assessments.

 

Location and distance in stream miles to upstream river structures, and whether each structure represents an insignificant, partial or total barrier to fish passage: Three other potential instream barriers upstream of the project site (PAD #716535, 716536, 758552) were analyzed in a barrier analysis conducted in 2015 by DFW staff (T.Berryman and D.Acomb).  The analysis concluded that #716535, 1,200 ft above the proposed site, and two additional culvert sites not listed in the PAD, are not passage barriers. PAD site #716536, a box concrete culvert 2,180 ft above the proposed site, requires only a relatively simple fix to raise the tail water control to ensure passage.  GRRCD staff are currently working with DFW staff to address that site.  Remediation of Site #758552 is included in the proposed project.

 

How will the project be evaluated and measured for success: This project has a monitoring plan to assess success in achieving deliverables.

©2019 BY CALIFORNIA FISH PASSAGE FORUM.